Welcome to this week’s People In Focus. As we approach the year end, we are turning our attention in the Team to the employment changes expected next year. We will be reporting in the coming weeks on the planned introduction of Shared Parental Leave from next April, and giving a heads-up to the changes your business needs to be considering now. This week, we are looking at recent statistics published by Acas which reveal a breakdown of early conciliation figures following the first 6 months of the scheme and warn employers of the danger of Employment Tribunal claims.
ACAS Early Conciliation Scheme - Background
The Acas Early Conciliation Scheme was introduced on 6th April 2014, albeit as a voluntary scheme for the first month, before becoming compulsory on 6th May 2014. Now, all claimants (with some very limited exceptions) must first contact Acas to advise them of their potential claim before issuing a claim in the Employment Tribunal. The only obligation is on the would-be claimant to contact Acas, there is no obligation on either them or the possible Respondent to take part in Early Conciliation. If both parties wish to engage in Early Conciliation, the Acas conciliator has an initial 4 week period (which can be increased by a further 2 weeks) in which to broker a deal between the parties and avoid the case going to tribunal. All the claimant needs is a certificate and a reference number to show they have contacted Acas – this is then set out on any later ET1 claim form. The Employment Tribunal can refuse to accept a claim form where the claimant has not first engaged in Early Conciliation.
Between 6 April 2014 and 30 September 2014, Acas conciliated in over 37,000 cases –36,000 from employees and 1,000 from employers (employers too are able to initiate the scheme through Acas). The average weekly number of conciliated cases was around 1,600, which is in line with projections.
These early figures show that 18% of early conciliations resulted in a formal agreement recorded on an Acas settlement form COT3. Of those that did not result in settlement, over two thirds did not progress, (or have not yet progressed) to a tribunal claim.
10% of employees rejected the offer of early conciliation after they had submitted the Early Conciliation Form. When contacted by Acas, 10% of employers declined to participate in early conciliation.
Despite recent statistics indicating a drop in the numbers of Tribunal claims, these figures show that employment disputes have not gone away. Employers are reminded of the need to follow fair procedures prior to dismissals and redundancies and following their equal opportunities and harassment policies. Looking at these figures, the risk of litigation has now gone away.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.